Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Putting New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the ticket with Barack Obama might finally quell those Internet rumors about Obama being an undercover Muslim and an anti-Semite and a Palestinian sympathizer. But would Bloomberg play second fiddle? The NY Daily News, via the Bintel Blog, editorializes about why he might and why Obama should inquire.
Bloomberg gives Obama instant economic credibility, exemplifies postpartisan partnerships, offers a deep resume, even deeper pockets, experience confronting terrorism and the ability to think big. The downside?
Let’s be frank, some fraction of Americans would vote against any black-Jewish ticket. In a close election, that could hurt.
But the rewards far outweigh the risks. With a bold move, Obama could signal he really is a different kind of politician â and one who can win it all.
As one New York political heavyweight commented recently: No one wants to be the vice president ... until they’re asked to be vice president.
12.19.13 at 12:53 pm | Like Dana Friedman, a small proportion of the men. . .
12.10.13 at 11:33 am | Some 35 years after the LDS dropped the ban, the. . .
12.5.13 at 7:11 am | In some of the most astounding news I've heard. . .
12.3.13 at 7:11 am | The Supreme Court granted certiorari in ...
11.25.13 at 8:55 am | Judge Crabb ruled that the clergy housing. . .
11.23.13 at 7:46 pm | A time-lapse starting with Hinduism in 5,000 BC. . .
11.13.11 at 3:43 pm | Forensic anthropology may have something new to. . . (253)
11.21.11 at 11:30 pm | Julian Edelman has been playing O, D and special. . . (182)
11.16.13 at 10:41 am | His kebab cafe on hard times, Zablon Simintov. . . (115)
February 29, 2008 | 1:32 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
The Los Angeles Jewish community has been forced this week to take notice of the daily rocket attacks that for the past seven years have been visited upon Sderot and the surrounding kibbutzim and moshavim. The Live for Sderot concert attracted more than 2,000 Tuesday night, and 10 children from the western Negev have been sharing their stories at LA college campuses and high schools.
Still, it’s difficult to grasp the precariousness of life along the Gaza border unless you visit. After I spent two days there last summer, my perspective changed dramatically. Starting today, an Israeli travel company is offering that first-hand experience.
the trips will leave from Tel Aviv stopping in a few places along the way including locations of significant battles in the 1948 War of Independence. They will visit areas blossoming with the coming of spring in the northern Negev area and then continue onto Sderot for a two-hour visit.
In the rocket-battered town, the organizers have not planned any specific activity. They are hoping that participants will roam the town’s streets and spontaneously speak with residents about what they are going through and purchase products at Sderot’s various commercial centers.
Smadar Bat-Adam, the person responsible for the Eretz Nehederet tour, told Ynet that “in every bus, there will be a tour guide who will add to the trip. In addition, Uzi Landau, (former Minister) Avigdor Kahalani and others will be among the passengers and they will also give explanations. ...
Landau said that “Sderot is a manifestation of Zionism renewing itself, we are turning to all who are Zionist and care about the land.” However, the former minister emphasized that “the calling is for the entire public â from left to right. We’re touring without political arguments â this is not a place for politics â everyone can be his own solution. We’re going in order to tour, to identify and to aid the resident by purchasing (products from them).”
(The top photo came from Rick Richman’s blog, where he recently has been chronically in pictures and words the situation in Sderot.)
February 29, 2008 | 11:57 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
AARHUS, Denmark—Kurt Westergaard is in hiding from Islamic militants who want him dead. Now, the Danish cartoonist says he’s ready to part with the source of his travails, a small ink sketch of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban.
But first there is the ticklish question of price.
“I would like to think that it has some value,” says Mr. Westergaard, the 72-year-old creator of one of the world’s most famous cartoons and one that inflamed Muslims world-wide. “It is a symbol of democracy and freedom of expression. I think I should have a little money for this,” he says.
The drawing is locked in a bank vault while the cartoonist shuttles between temporary havens the Danish secret police have found for him around this blustery port city. His is by far the best known of 12 Muhammad-related cartoons published in September 2005 by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. But how do you fix the value of something that auction houses won’t touch, that museums won’t hang on their walls and that still inspires murderous passions?
Two weeks ago, Danish authorities said they had foiled a plot to kill Mr. Westergaard in his home. Seventeen Danish newspapers, outraged and eager to show solidarity, reprinted his drawing. Muslims again took to the streets. Iran and others demanded an apology. “I always had a feeling this cartoon crisis would not end,” says Mr. Westergaard. “Now I know.”
Yet the new round of trouble may only increase the cartoon’s worth eventually. “Things gain value from public interest and history,” notes Sebastian Lerche, a director of Denmark’s biggest auction house, Bruun Rasmussen. He is quick to add he has no interest in testing the market: “We see no point in offending millions of people,” he says.
Some Muslims here want the bomb-in-a-turban drawing destroyed. Salah Suleiman, an activist in a mosque that helped whip up the fury over it in early 2006, delights in the artist’s troubles and says no amount of money can save him from God’s wrath: “He is living like a rat…. He is living in hell already.”
This story from today’s Wall Street Journal is headlined “Price of Notoriety,” and doesn’t Westergaard know it. Coincidentally, The Jewish Journal had an op-ed today from the culture editor of Westergaard’s paper.
Sadly, the plot to kill Westergaard is not an isolated story, but part of a broader trend that risks undermining free speech in Europe and around the world. Consider the following recent events: In Oslo, a gallery has censored three small watercolor paintings showing the head of the prophet Muhammad on a dog’s body, by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has been under police protection since the fall of 2007. In Holland, the municipal museum in The Hague recently refused to show photos of gay men wearing the masks of the prophet Muhammad and his son Ali by the Iranian-born artist Sooreh Hera; Hera has received several death threats and is in hiding. In Belarus, an editor has been sentenced to three years in a forced labor camp after republishing some of Jyllands-Posten’s Muhammad cartoons. In Egypt, bloggers are in jail after having “insulted Islam.” In Afghanistan, 23-year-old Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh has been sentenced to death because he distributed “blasphemous” material about the mistreatment of women in Islam. And in India, Bengal writer Taslima Nasreen is in a safe house after having been threatened by people who don’t like her books. Every one of the above cases speaks to the same problem: a global battle for the right to free speech. The cases are different, and you can’t compare the legal systems in Egypt and Norway, but the justifications for censorship and self-censorship are similar in different parts of the world: Religious feelings and taboos need to be treated with a kind of sensibility and respect that other feelings and ideas cannot command. This position boils down to a simple rule: If you respect my taboo, I’ll respect yours. That was the rule of the game during the Cold War until people like Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Andrei Sakharov and other dissenting voices behind the Iron Curtain insisted on another rule: It is not cultures, religions or political systems that enjoy rights. Human beings enjoy rights, and certain principles like the ones embedded in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights are universal. Unfortunately, misplaced sensitivity is being used by tyrants and fanatics to justify murder and silence criticism.
February 29, 2008 | 10:55 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
For the LA Weekly‘s Jonathan Gold, who last spring became the first food critic to win the Pulitzer Prize, eating is a spiritual experience, a journey that has led him to the many dark counters and illuminated eateries in this town. Through eating, Gold, who is Jewish, believes he has found the true identity of a city with more than 100 spoken languages and 600 religious denominations. I wrote a short profile of him for the current issue of UCLA Magazine.
There’s just one problem when trying to grab lunch in Westwood Village with L.A.‘s culinary connoisseur: He can’t think of anywhere to go. “There is sort of a disconnect between the words ‘favorite restaurant’ and ‘Westwood,’ ” he says. “But I’ll think about it.”
Gold settles on Flame, a Persian restaurant a few blocks south of Wilshire Boulevard, a corridor that he says makes up for the Village’s lack of choices â there’s Ambala Dhaba for Indian food, Sunnin for Lebanese and Junior’s Deli serving up Jewish soups and meats. This will be Gold’s first of several visits before he reviews Flame, which after the meal he determines offers a common Persian menu executed to near perfection.
He typically frequents a restaurant under review five times over the course of a month to get an in-depth sense of what the restaurant is about; in one notable case, he ate at the Nice Time Deli in San Gabriel 17 times.
“It was a Taiwanese place. I absolutely hated the food,” he recalls. “There is a certain sweet, smoky taste that is very off-putting â almost like liquid cigarette smoke. They like mucousy texture. There is something called bitter melon, which is like cancer medicine; you eat it and your eyes pop out. ... But I recognized that they were cooking it exactly how people liked it.”
Gold’s taste is curious and critical, sensitive and incisive. Take, for example, this portion of “Home of the Porno Burrito,” one of 10 columns that earned Gold the Pulitzer.
“The potato taco may be El Atacor’s enduring glory, but its fame in the online world comes mostly from its Super Burrito, a foil-wrapped construction the size and girth of your forearm, which drapes over a paper plate like a giant, oozing sea cucumber or, perhaps more to the point, like an appendage of John Holmes,” he wrote. “It is impossible to look at a Super Burrito without marveling at the flaccid, masculine mass of the thing. It is probably even harder to bite into it without laughing.”
February 29, 2008 | 8:30 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Anita Renfroe didn’t become a star overnight. It took a few months of her “Mom Song” video bumping around YouTube to go viral, and then, almost overnight, she became an unlikely and lovable entertainer.
Renfroe is a suburban mom from flyover country â specifically, Cobb County, Ga., home of Newt Gingrich. She is round and soft, loves butter, carbs and sugar and worries routinely about her weight. She is maternal to just about everyone, even people she doesnât know very well. She pinches pennies and worries that her spotless house isnât clean enough. Renfroe is a former stay-at-home mom who for some years home-schooled her kids. Now that those children are past the age of consent, she still cannot stop telling them what to do; she is always just a little bit anxious.
Renfroe is also a devout Christian and for about eight years has been slowly building a career as a comedian on the Christian womenâs circuit. Like Mike Huckabeeâs easy humor, Renfroeâs wit comes as a surprise to nonevangelicals. She performs what she calls âestrogen-flavored musical comedyâ in large halls and arenas, often with an inspirational group called Women of Faith. At those performances she sells her DVDs and humorous books with religious undertones: âIf Itâs Not One Thing, Itâs Your Mother,â âIf You Canât Lose It, Decorate Itâ and âPurse-onality.â âI love the way God lets you use everything in your life,â she says about her chosen career as a comic. âItâs cool how it all comes together.â
The headline for this article from the New York Times Magazine, “Did You Hear the One About the Christian Comedian?,” reminded me of this sort of lame article I wrote a few years ago. (Coincidentally, the magazine’s piece has bristled a lot of Christians because of the condescending tone, discussed here.)
Comedian Mark Fitter’s greeting is also his opening joke.
“Hi, my name’s Mark, and I am a pastor of a church.”
Audience members and bar patrons laugh and clap. Someone shouts, “Amen!” Another, “Hallelujah!”
Performing on the same bill as comics whose repertoire revolves around lewd innuendos and blatant bawdiness, the Victorville resident cracks clean jokes.
“You know, the tough thing about being a pastor is most people only see you work on Sundays,” Fitter said as he performed at Tuesday at Omaha Jack’s Grillhouse and Brewery in Rancho Cucamonga.
“And most give you a hard time about it. ‘Hey Mark, it must be great having a job where you only have to work one day a week.’ That really ticks me off because I don’t work one day a week I only work an hour per week.”
Cheesy reporting aside, there is an industry of Christian comedians—just like there are Christian karate instructors and Christian tattoo parlors. Between 2002 and 2005 alone, the Christian Comedy Association grew tenfold, from 35 to 350. Clean comedy is not always humorous (something I witnessed Sunday at a celebration of Biola’s 100th birthday) but its wholesome, often encouraging and sometimes entertaining.
February 28, 2008 | 3:50 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
I headed for the hotel hot tub.
There were a few Limmudniks already there, and one man with his back to me, lounging in the bubbles. I stepped in beside him, said my requisite, “Ahhhhh,” then turned to say hi.
And noticed—I could not not notice—that his chest was covered with a large tattoo of a swastika.
The man was big, maybe 6-feet, 250 pounds. And when I say there was a swastika on his chest, I mean it was blue black, inked in one-inch wide lines and went from nipple to nipple. My first thought, of course, was, “Maybe that’s the Navajo swastika.” My second was, “Please let that be the Navajo swastika.” My third was, “No, that’s not the Navajo swastika.”
Rob Eshman got to talking to the guy—his name was Don—and learned that the tattoo was a membership card for the Aryan Brotherhood, which his tubmate had joined in an Arizona prison. Don said he wanted to get the tattoo removed but couldn’t afford the expense. Rob offered to walk back into the hotel lobby and raise the money; he said he could get it in 45 minutes.
The man had a tense, unsettled energy. He was twice my size, and we were alone in a hot tub at night, practically naked. It didn’t seem the place to explore his ill will toward the Jewish people. I just wanted to keep things practical.
We set a time to meet later and exchange numbers.
At the appointed hour, Don wasn’t anywhere to be found. I didn’t know his room number or last name, and I tried in vain to find him.
In the meantime, telling the story to others at Limmud, I had raised enough in pledges for Don to get his swastika removed, get lipo, a facelift, a ranch house in Encino—whatever he wanted. But Don was gone. I laid out the whole story to Jessica at the Hilton front desk, and she passed my e-mail and phone number on to all the guests registered from Phoenix, but they claimed never to have heard of Don.
February 28, 2008 | 10:06 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Olmert’s life is complicated by more than just Israelis’ opposition to compromises on Jerusalem. In the last several months, he has also faced a revolt by diaspora Jews, who are making demands strangely analogous to the claims of Muslims in the broader Arab world. Abbas can’t give up on Muslims’ historic claims over the holy sites of Jerusalem, and Olmert is hearing similar voices from the Jewish community, especially in the United States. The more extreme advocates for diaspora input say he does not have the right to compromise on Jerusalem without broader Jewish consent. More moderate voices concede that the final decision will be taken by Israel, but they demand to be consulted, whatever that means.
Israelis do not necessarily like the idea of diaspora Jews meddling in the affairs of the state. A survey conducted for the Jewish organization B’nai B’rith International a couple of weeks ago revealed that Israelis’ view on this issue is largely driven by their political stance. The more traditional an Israeli is, the more he opposes concessions in Jerusalem: Fifty-one percent of secular Jews, 80.1 percent of somewhat observant Jews, and 91.1 percent of strictly observant Jews oppose concessions in Jerusalem.
And what about the right of American Jews to be part of the decision-making process? Thirty-one-point-seven percent of secular Israelis do not want them involved, but for religious Israelis the opposite is true: Almost 60 percent want U.S. involvement, probably hoping it would make Olmert’s life more difficult when it comes to the holy city.
This is an unbelievably, endlessly challenging issue. Jerusalem is the eternal homes of Jews around the world. It is also linchpin of any peace plan and the most difficult element for either side to compromise on, a reality Jeffrey Goldberg discusses in “Prisoners.”
When I was researching my story on Jewish hawks, I asked Gary Ratner, western head of the American Jewish Congress, who speaks for Jerusalem. He said, “Diaspora Jewry have an absolute right to weigh in. Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people, not the Israelis.”
Yesterday, though, I spoke with Tom Dine, the man who built the American Israel Public Affairs Committee into the mastodon, save for extinction, it has become, and he said the only way to increase Israeli security in its hostile neighborhood is to realize a practical peace plan with the Palestinians. That means, he said, budging on the boundaries of Jerusalem.
“I know it is an emotional issue,” he said. “I used to throw out that red meat when I was at AIPAC.”
Prime Minister Olmert learned that the hard way when he floated the possibility of dividing the Holy City. (An Orthodox rabbi in L.A. similarly caught flak when he asked American Jews to let Israel do its own negotiating.)
The prime minister’s suspicions were further inflamed by a letter from Ronald Lauder, the leader of the World Jewish Congress. Lauder, a supporter of Olmert’s rival, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote that “[w]hile recognizing Israel’s inherent prerogatives as a sovereign state, it is inconceivable that any changes in the status of our Holy City will be implemented without giving the Jewish people, as a whole, a voice in the decision.” Olmert retaliated by canceling a planned speech to the WJC’s board of governors.
Elsewhere, Olmert kept his anger in check. His advisers told him his attitude had alienated U.S. Jewish leadersâleaders Israel wants to keep onside. According to a recent American Jewish Committee survey of Jewish-American public opinion, a majority of diaspora Jews oppose compromises in Jerusalem. Complicating matters even further, the more active on Israeli issues the Jew is, the more he is prone to oppose concessions.
So, in a conversation with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in mid-January, Olmert was more conciliatory: He told the attendees he wants their voices to be heard on the future of Jerusalem. Last week, meeting many of those leaders in Jerusalem, he tried, again, to calm things down. He told them Jerusalem “will be the last issue that is negotiated upon. It is the most sensitive issue and the most difficult.” And he assured them he will listen.
But the exact role of world Jews was not determined, and it never can be. Not in a way that can satisfy both diaspora leaders and Israelis. Either non-Israeli Jews have a voice and some influence in this process, on the premise that Jerusalem belongs to all Jews, or they don’t, because Israelis get to make decisions related to their country, their security, and their daily lives. Olmert is right in thinking this question is nothing more than a trap. If he consults with diaspora leaders and goes on to reject their advice, they’ll say he didn’t act in good faith. If he accepts their opinion as a real factor, how will he ever be able to reach an agreement?
February 28, 2008 | 9:11 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
You know when a friend dies and you are so paralyzed by grief that you can’t mourn their loss in words? That was how I felt yesterday afternoon when I got an e-mail about the staff cuts visiting my former paper tomorrow.
* 22 jobs will be eliminated Friday, bringing us to 100 total in the newsroom.
* the layoff package will be the same as the voluntary buyout package last year.
* anyone who wants to voluntarily step forward and take a buyout (same terms) has until noon Thursday to let ron or melissa know.
* those affected include both PT and FT; both guild and non-guild
* ron will stay.
* ron will notify those affected on friday.
* those who take voluntary buyouts will affect the list of those on friday.
* if you have jobshare suggestion, etc., let him know.
* industry and us are screwed, but i still believe in what we’re doing and have some hope.
* will help with references etc.
* accrued vacation will be paid out too. exempt worker max is four weeks.
* this is the least of the worst options - dean saved ten reporting jobs
* it’s gonna be tough to look good workers in the eye and tell them we have no room for you anymore.
* decide for self whether it’s fun, worthwhile, worth saying in, or moving on.
* can’t sugarcoat things, can’t say there won’t be more cuts or that any paper will survive.
At Bible study last night, the fate of my former colleagues was my main prayer request. We journalists have long known these were bad times to be in the business; it’s been that way since I started four years ago. And that was one of the reasons I left the LA Daily News for The Jewish Journal.
But I don’t think anyone could have expected the cuts to be this stark and this severe. How could they? A nearly 20 percent reduction overnight. Employees given less than 12 hours to decide whether they should take a buyout or risk being laid off anyway. Others knowing that by staying they are costing a friend their job.
I know Ron Kaye, the editor, fought hard to save jobs, and fortunately he didn’t lose his in the process. He was so stricken yesterday, I was told he started crying during the staff meeting. Brent Hopkins’, the shop steward and eternal optimist who for seven years has fought the good fight, laments what comes next:
This is the worst day I’ve ever seen here at the paper and I’m sure Friday will be even worse. There is nothing I can say that will make it OK or even make it make sense. These are disastrous cuts that will seriously hamper our ability to produce the paper and Web content at the level our readers expect. It risks erasing all the great leaps forward we’ve made online and in print.
The next few months will be intensely painful, both for the people who lose their jobs and those who stay behind. As I’ve said to many of you, the real losers are the people who rely on this newspaper—they won’t be able to find the information they need anymore. Their events won’t get covered. Their sense of community will get a little shakier. Once the dedicated journalists who’ve made this place what it is leave, their expertise will never be replaced. Maybe people won’t notice it right away, but in a year, maybe two, maybe more, they’ll realize there’s a gaping hole left behind that can never be filled in.
This is particularly heartbreaking to me because you guys have given this place everything and asked for little in return. You’ve sacrificed yourselves for love of the craft and love of the community and the work you’ve done is amazing. The paper’s thinner and our coverage isn’t as expansive as it once was, but the stories, photos, layouts, headlines—everything—has been fantastic. I’m so proud to see the work you do on a daily basis and honored to be a part of it. I’m heartsick to see such a great operation so callously dismantled.
This is not the end of the Daily News and the people who stay behind will continue to put out as good a paper as they possibly can every day, but it will be very hard. Then again, it’s never been easy and the crazy folks who make this place so vibrant and alive will never let this company’s mismanagement snuff them out. You’ll continue to give more than the beancounters deserve and keep coming back before because y’all are the most wonderful, talented, bad-ass journalists around. Somehow, the spirit will survive, as it always does.